The Magical Animal Adoption Agency: Clover’s Luck by Kallie George

15 Jul

clover's luck“Going into the Woods to chase her bird was one thing.  Going to apply for a volunteer position was quite another.  Who would run an animal adoption agency in the Woods?  Weren’t beasties supposed to be the only creatures that lived here?”

Clover was supposed to be a lucky girl.  After all, isn’t her name the luckiest of names?  But all the charms and finger-crossing in the world can’t change things:  she’s actually terribly unlucky.  When her canary escapes, it’s just her luck that she flies into the forest, a forest that Clover has already heard is full of beasties.  But still, Penny was her bird, and Clover has to take care of her!  So she ventures into the woods after her flyaway pet, and discovers a place full of the most fantastic pets she has never heard of before.

When she sees a posted flyer seeking volunteers at the Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Clover knows it’s the place for her.  She begins volunteering, and is soon feeding squashed flies to magical toads and trying to avoid being toasted by a baby dragon, who’s still learning to control his fiery breath.  When the owner of the agency is unexpectedly called away, Clover is left in charge of the magical animals.  There’s a lot to do! Not only do all the creatures need food and care, but she also has to make sure the people coming in to adopt her precious animals are good families who will treat the animals well.  When a sneaky witch almost spoils everything, Clover has to save the day-and she learns that she’s not as unlucky as she thought.

Fairy ponies! Baby dragons! Enchanted mood toads! It was enough to get me to review this book, even though it’s for an audience a bit younger than I typically review for.  This one’s for the under third-grade crowd, or those kids who can’t get enough glitter fairies.

If you like this one, why not try:

The Imaginary Veterinary #1: The Sasquatch Escape

Sarah’s Unicorn

The Candy Fairies Series

The Enchanted Files #1: Diary of a Mad Brownie

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth

15 Jul

kinda like brothers“I got down the box of oatmeal raisin cookies and took two without asking.  I needed them.”

Jarrett’s mom takes care of foster babies in New York, so Jarrett is used to sharing his home with children he doesn’t know.  It’s not that big of a deal to him, until the day Kevon and Treasure show up at the door.   Treasure’s fine; she’s just a baby.  But Kevon?  He’s TWELVE.  That’s right, a whole year older than Jarrett himself.  It’s not so bad being a temporary big brother to foster babies, but being a temporary little brother is something Jarrett is not at all interested in.  Worse, everyone just assumes that Jarrett and Kevon will be friends with each other!  Jarrett’s not sure at all.  Kevon acts like he’s a good, but Jarrett suspects that he has some secrets he’s been keeping.Jarrett and Kevon navigate an uneasy peace.  After all, they both have bigger concerns than just trying to make friends.  Kevon worries about keeping Treasure safe in the foster system, and Jarrett is worried about trying to get his grades up so he can go on to the sixth grade.

Their daily lives aren’t the only issue. Both boys also face a racist world; when Jarrett sees a worker at the community center being stopped and frisked without cause, he is deeply angry.  A worker in the center explains it this way to Kevon and Jarrett: “I’m going to keep it real with you guys, you black and Latino boys are going to get stopped a lot. And it doesn’t matter what you do, or what you didn’t do. It’s just because of who you are. And in the meantime, I need to teach you what to do when the cops stop you — not if, when.”  In a 2014 interview with NPR, Coe Booth comments on that scene in the book, saying: “I think any parent or anybody who is dealing with young black boys — as is what’s happening at the community center in this book — I think every single community center has had this conversation with their boys. And it’s just so sad that we have to do this, but we do, and I hope that changes. I don’t know if what’s going on in Ferguson will change that, but I do hope it at least continues that conversation, because it’s just exhausting that this is still going on…”  I heartily agree.  I appreciate the nuanced, realistically complex middle school boys dealing with both the difficult situations of middle school and the ugly reality of racism in the world.

This middle-school realistic fiction is a definite winner.  I can’t wait to read more from Coe Booth. Go see her at her website!

If you liked this book, why not try these?

My Cousin’s Keeper by Simon French

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

31 Dec

“The otgabiher problem with being me-and my Mexican ancestry-is that people don’t believe I am any kind of Mexican.  They always think I’m White, and it bugs the shit out of me.  Not because I hate White people, but because I have to go into a history lesson every time someone questions my Mexicanness.  I told Sebastian this once and he was like, “It’s not a big deal.” It may not be a big deal to him, because he is a nice Mexican brown.  Or a big deal to Sandra, who is perfectly dark-skinned.  Her Mexicanness is never questioned. Of course.  People never say racist things around them.”

Gabi’s got the typical teenage struggles: hormones, parents, friend drama.  She’s also got the drama of a father addicted to drugs, a pregnant friend, a gay friend, and on top of it all, she’s a fat girl who is navigating two different cultures: the traditional Mexican culture of her parents, and the American culture she was raised in.  But Gabi takes it all in stride-and her uncensored, often hilarious, always entertaining novel is one you won’t want to put down.

Isabel Quintero is one of those authors who tells the truth to her readers.  She addresses teenage issues respectfully, with no beating around the bush.  It may not necessarily be what adults WANT teenagers to do or think, but Ms. Quintero seems to remember the reality of being a teenager.  Gabi’s my new feminist superhero.  I think you’ll love her.

Happy reading!

If you liked this one, try these out:

The Tequila Worm

Cuba 15

Ten Things I Hate About Me

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

17 Dec

popular“And so, I embark on my grand experiment.  Every month of the school year I will follow Betty Cornell’s advice on one of the topics in her book: dieting, hair, makeup, posture, and attitude, among others-no matter how embarrassing or complicated.  I’ll start with the easiest chapters first, the challenges that people won’t notice right away.  And then, month by month, I’ll step it up, until I’m light-years away from my comfort zone.”

Maya was given a copy of Betty Cornell’s 1951 masterpiece: Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide, chock full of advice about posture, making friends, skin care, and party-throwing.  Even though the book was more than sixty years old when Maya got her hands on it, she decided to give it a try herself.  See, Maya described her social position as “the Social Outcast group, the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be there.”  She figures a popularity guide is just what she needs-and so, the Great Betty Cornell Popularity Experiment was born.

Every month, Maya tries a new challenge-from walking gracefully (“move the leg in one piece”, Cornell advises), to counteracting shyness (“It is important to remember that when you are shy it is possible for you to give people the impression that you are rude.”  She wears pearls and stands up straight, and tries to include everyone in her conversations.

Even though some of her schoolmates are mystified at her behavior, Maya finds that a lot of Betty Cornell’s advice still applies today!  After her experiment, Maya wrote up this whole book, with her own Popularity Tips included.  And the best part?  Maya is a real life fifteen-year-old.  So, all you teens out there-write your books! We’d love to read them!  In the meantime, check this one out.  I think you’ll love it.

Happy reading!

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

10 Nov

akatawitch“Let’s start from the start.  So there are Leopard People.  We’ve always been around, all over the world.  In some countries, we’re called witches, sorcerers, shamans, wizards–things like that, I guess…Anyway, being a Leopard Person is not genetic, really. It’s spiritual.  The spiritual affects the physical…It’s complicated. All you need to know is that Leopard People tend to keep in in the family.  But sometimes, it skips and jumps, like with you.  It sounds like your grandmother was of Leopard spirit.  By the way, all this is in that book I just helped you buy.  So read it.”

Sunny’s used to feeling different, no matter where she lives. She was born in New York City to Nigerian parents, but they moved back to Nigeria when she was nine. Sunny feels like she’s stuck between America and Nigeria.  She’s American, and looks West African, but even her Nigerian peers don’t accept her, because she was born with albinism.  Her skin doesn’t have pigment in it, which means that it is very sensitive to the sun.  She can’t even play soccer, even though she loves it, because she gets sunburned so easily.

One tense summer, when her classmates are reeling with the news of a serial killer targeting Nigerian children, Sunny learns why she’s always felt different: she has magical powers. Not only does she have very powerful magical skills, she also learns that two of her friends are similarly gifted.  Sunny soon develops a dual life: school and chores during the day, and frantic magical study and practice during the nights.  She learns shapeshifting, juju, and spells, trying all the while to keep her second life secret from her peers and family.

The serial killings escalate, and the magical authorities appeal to the young trio for help: can they use their powers to track down the killer?  He’s not just a mortal; he’s Black Hat, the worst of the worst, a wizard who went terribly wrong.  Can Sunny and her friends defeat the evil Black Hat?  Or are his powers so strong that he cannot be stopped?  The fate of Nigeria rests in the hands of a twelve-year-old.  We’re lucky she’s one as awesome as Sunny.

Since I read Harry Potter in the seventh grade, I’ve been looking for books like it.  Lots of books have similar themes and plots, but none of them feel as original and creative as Good Old HP…except Akata Witch!  This is a definite must for those of you who love Harry Potter.  Sunny will be everyone’s new favorite underdog, and we’ll all be wishing we knew juju like she does. I can’t wait to read more of Nnedi Okorafor’s books! The second in this series, Breaking Kola, is due out in 2015.

Happy reading!

If you like this book, be sure to try these:

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones(who reportedly loves Nnedi Okorafor’s books)

Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

29 Sep

wonder“If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all.  I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and doing that look-away thing.  Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that one one else sees me that way.”

August Pullman has been homeschooled all his life, safe from the stares and questions of others.  See, he was born with a craniofacial anomaly-his face doesn’t look like most other faces.  He and his family are used to it, but most other people aren’t.  Auggie knows they don’t mean to be rude, or hurt his feelings, but it happens anyway.

He’s afraid it might get a lot worse, too:  August Pullman is about to start middle school.  MIDDLE SCHOOL!  It’s notorious for being horrible for even the most normal of kids. Nevertheless, Auggie bravely goes out into the world-and what he finds will surprise him.  The book is told from many different perspectives: Auggie’s, his sister, his friends, even his bully, and it reminds us that there is always more than one side to a story.  This book humanizes everyone, even those who bully.  It’s the most realistic, most compassionate work on the subject that I’ve ever encountered.

Friends, this book will make you cry.  It will make you think about how we relate to others who are different from us (and, after all, isn’t everyone?).  It will fill your heart with joy.  It’s a great one for parents to read with kids-as a read-aloud, it could work for ones as young as fourth grade, all the way up to grown-ups. It’s a sensitive portrayal of differences, bullying, and the underworld of middle school.  Reading this book will make you a better human, I promise.  Read it with someone dear to you, friends.

Happy reading!

If you liked this one, you’ll love Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco, and you’ll definitely need to check out Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

15 Sep

the name of the star“Keep calm and carry on.
Also, stay in and hide because the Ripper is coming.”

Rory is way out of her element:  she’s from Middle-of-Nowhere, Louisiana, suddenly transplanted to a prestigious boarding school in London.  Nothing’s the same, and she’s starting to wonder when she’ll ever fit in. To make matters worse, Rory arrives in London just as the city is plagued by a series of horrific murders.  Strangely, the murders seem to be copies of those committed by Jack the Ripper, over a hundred years before.  Stranger still, the police have little evidence and no suspects.

Strangest of all, Rory saw the killer and no one else did. She’s not even sure that others can see him.  When Rory becomes the killer’s next target, she knows she has to take the matter in her own hands.  What she uncovers will surprise everyone-even me, a librarian who’s probably read every young adult ghost story out there.

Happy Reading!

If you like this book, you’ll love The Diviners by Libba Bray, and you’ll especially love Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington.